Greystoke Mahale

Greystoke Mahale: Our full report

Rooms
6 bandas
Traveller's rating
Excellent (99%) From 40 reviews
Children
Recommended for 15+
Open
1st June–16th March

Greystoke Mahale is a unique, high-end camp that sits on a white-sand beach overlooking Lake Tanganyika's clear waters inside the remote Mahale Mountains National Park. The lodge is named after the legend of Tarzan and much of the experience here revolves around life in the forest, particularly chimpanzee-tracking.

The adventure starts on the journey to Greystoke: after flying to Mahale (about five hours from Arusha, or 40 minutes from Katavi), you'll be greeted by smiling camp staff and escorted to the camp's large, wooden dhow for the final leg of your journey. During the ride, you'll be introduced to the area, the park and the lodge by one of the guides, and also have a light lunch (depending on the time of day). An hour or so later, as you sail along the beautiful coastline of Mahale National Park, you'll see the unmistakable thatched roof of Greystoke's main lodge emerge on the beach with the forested Mahale Mountains towering behind.

The high-roofed main lodge stands in the centre of the beach, and is completely open sided, allowing the breeze in, and making the most of the verdant views. It houses the main dining area, and a small seating area where you can read up on the local birdlife and wildlife, as well as detailed information about the chimpanzees you'll be tracking. Upstairs, there is a relaxation area with board games, a library, and some extremely comfortable beanbags – set right in the peak of the thatch, with a great view across the lake. There is also a very good little camp shop, selling a variety of curios and stylish gifts. Raised up on the rocks on the far corner of the beach there's also a “Sunset" bar, where guests normally gather for drinks before dinner. The views from up here are fantastic and there are a number of secluded seating spots to enjoy the vista in private.

The six bandas at Greystoke Mahale are set further back from the beach and nestled into the vegetation. They're well spaced out with a good degree of privacy, and all face towards the lake (although some of the more private bandas have a slightly less clear view of the lake). Each double-story banda is broadly the same: they're completely open at the front, no doors or zips at all – although there are heavy curtains which can be pulled across and secured to the floor if you want a little more privacy.

The main frame of each banda is made of wooden poles and bamboo blinds, with a tall makuti thatch roof. The large four-poster bed stands in the centre of the room, swathed in a mosquito net. It looks out onto a small decking area, furnished with a couple of sunloungers and a small writing desk.

Behind the bed, there's a dressing area with a lockable trunk, some space to hang your clothes and a selection of toiletries. And, at the far back of the banda, is the en-suite bathroom with a flush toilet, shower and sink. Water is heated on demand by individual kerosene burners. Your guide will call ahead at the end of each activity to ensure warm water is ready for you on your return – this usually takes about 15 minutes. The top floor of the banda is reached via a flight of steep stairs carved from an old wooden canoe. Up here there's a day bed to relax on, and in one of the bandas there's also an extra bed for families.

Greystoke Mahale's bandas are spacious and well put together. The majority of the furniture in the room is crafted from old recycled wooden dhow boats salvaged from nearby lakeside villages – the result is a unique, rustic style in tune with its surroundings. Thoughtful touches, such as kikois and towels for the beach, and water bowls to wash the sand off your feet, are very welcome.

The main activity at Greystoke – and the reason most people come here – is the superb chimp trekking. It's very professionally run and at all times you're accompanied by a park scout and expert guide who know all of the chimps by name, and can explain their behaviour and past history meticulously. This deepens your whole experience beyond simply watching the mammals. For us, it's one of the most riveting wildlife spectacles in Africa. Trekking can take anywhere from a leisurely 20 minutes, to a more strenuous hike of three hours or more. From August to September the chimps tend to be lower down in the mountains – and sometimes in camp! Once you reach the chimps, there is a one hour limit on how long you can spend with them, but if they decide to move on through the forest, the clock stops as you move with them (and try to keep up!) and then restarts when they stop again. The longest guests are permitted to be actively trekking the chimps in proximity is three hours.

There is plenty of other wildlife to see, while searching for the chimps. Birds such as red-capped robin chats, crested guinea fowls, palm nut vultures, harrier hawks and African crowned eagles, as well as the small blue duiker and silver and red colobus monkeys live in the forest. You may come across clay pots left by the BaTongwe tribe, who used to inhabit the area before it was made a national park.

After a morning watching the chimps, spend a lazy afternoon kayaking on the crystal clear waters of Lake Tanganyika, or sailing on a beautiful old dhow. From the boat, you can take a nature cruise along the shore – we were lucky enough to see hippos below in the water! Large crocodiles are occasionally spied lurking in the reeds too. While swimming is not permitted from the shore – due to the occasional crocodile and hippo – the camp will take guests far out into the deep water on the dhow in the afternoons to swim. The water is beautifully warm, crystal clear and fresh, and it's a fantastic experience. Whilst out on the dhow guests are also invited to try their luck at catching one of the many species of tilapia (of which there are many found in the lake), using hand line fishing equipment. In the interests of conservation, only catch and release fishing is permitted.

Our view

Mahale Mountain National Park is one of the most remote and most beautiful parks in Tanzania - if not Africa - and Greystoke Mahale is definitely the best camp in the park. The chimpanzee experience is incredible, the afternoon boat rides relaxing, and the camp itself is beautifully constructed and very well run. The knowledge and personalities of the camp's guides are unbelievable; they add so much to the whole experience. For those who aren't afraid to go off the beaten track, and have the budget to stretch, you won't be disappointed by a trip here. Greystoke Mahale is a very special place.

Geographics

Location: Mahale Mountains National Park, Tanzania

Ideal length of stay: There are two flights a week into Mahale (Monday and Thursdays), so three- or four-night stays are usually required.

Directions: Mahale is about a five-hour flight from Arusha. From the airstrip, Greystoke is reached via a roughly one-hour boat ride in the camp’s old dhow.

Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer

Key personnel

Owner: Nomad

Food & drink

Usual board basis: Full Board

Food quality: On our last visit, in September 2018, the food at Greystoke was very good indeed – fresh, varied and plentiful. Meals are normally taken communally in the main lodge seated around one long table. Here's an example of what to expect at mealtimes:

Breakfast is usually served around 7.30am. There's a buffet selection of cereal with yoghurt and fresh fruit. The waiters will then come around and take your order for a cooked breakfast – including eggs, bacon and sausages. While you're eating breakfast the guides will be communicating with the trackers as to the location of the chimps. Once they've found them you'll all set off. Be prepared to abandon your breakfast at a moment's notice!

Lunch is usually a light buffet selection. We had dishes such as pizza, roasted aubergines, tomato and cucumber salad, and watermelon and feta salad. A light dessert is then served to your table. There was always a really good choice of dishes, and they were all very tasty.

At about 7.00pm it's usual for guests to gather in the sunset bar for a pre-dinner drink. The waiters bring out some nibbles, and then everyone will then gather around the dining table for a three-course dinner. Starters are usually light; we enjoyed a cucumber, salami and tomato salad. We had pilau rice, Thai chicken curry, pumpkin and fresh vegetables. For dessert we were served an excellent chocolate-and-cashew nut cake.

Dining style: Mixture of group dining and individual tables

Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining

Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included

Drinks included: Most drinks are included except premium wines and spirits.

Further dining info: Private dining and room service is possible.

Special interests

Honeymoons: Greystoke Mahale is one of Africa's most original and spectacular places for a honeymoon. The bandas are private and rustic, but with plenty of luxurious touches to make your stay comfortable, and the food and service are top-notch. Perfect for a romantic Tanzania honeymoon.

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Beach holidays: Greystoke’s spectacular white beach of fine powder-sand is not beside the ocean, but deep inland, next to the great Lake Tanganyika. So whilst chimp-tracking in Mahale, pause to enjoy a superb beach holiday right in the heart of Africa.

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Photography holidays: To include chimpanzees in a photographic holiday in Tanzania, come to Mahale: probably Africa's best location for photographing wild chimps. The scenery is spectacular: a white sand beach separating the blue lake from the tropical, forested mountains.

See more ideas for Photography holidays in Tanzania

Cultural experiences: Guests can visit the local village and school with a member of staff from Greystoke Mahale.

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Wildlife safaris: Simply the best place for watching chimps and other primates in the forests of central Africa.

See more ideas for Wildlife safaris in Tanzania

Luxury: Perfectly placed at the edge of a lush forest, the open-fronted rooms at Greystoke Mahale have unrivalled views of the white sandy beach and the lake beyond. From exclusive chimp tracking to eating sushi on a dhow – experiences at this luxurious lodge are as unique as its setting.

See more ideas for Luxury in Tanzania

Children

Attitude towards children: The camp welcomes families with older children.

Property’s age restrictions: Children have to be aged 12+.

Special activities & services: None

Equipment: None

Infrastructure

Power supply: Solar Power

Power supply notes: They have a backup generator for 24 hour power in the rooms. Battery charging can only be done in the main areas.

Communications: There is no WiFi or cellphone reception in Mahale.

TV & radio: No

Sustainability

Katumbi Clinic and Primary School

Katumbi Clinic and Primary SchoolGreystoke Mahale works closely with the Katumbi Clinic and the Katumbi Primary School, supporting initiatives concerning the health and education of the local community. Support to the NGO Pencils for Hope is also offered and a variety of programs are run - including meal provision, as well as renovation projects aimed to improve the offerings of the school and clinic.

Guests can visit Katumbi, a relaxing 90-minute boat ride away, where they can learn about and contribute to the initiatives of Nomad and Pencils for Hope. At Katumbi, visitors can learn about some of the vital projects underway, such as the creation of a solar-powered computer lab to aid in community education efforts.

In constructing Greystoke Mahale, its environmental footprint was sensibly considered from stage one of the camp’s design. The rooms are constructed almost entirely of sustainable materials sourced from Lake Tanganyika, which the lodge sits by. These materials, such as reclaimed wood, are the result of transforming old fisherman’s canoes into ladders, or thatch from palm trees for the roofs.

Greystoke Mahale’s projects can be directly supported by donations to the Nomad Trust, as well as through donation of school supplies, medical supplies, and other general living supplies to Pack for a Purpose.

Health & safety

Malarial protection recommended: Yes

Medical care: There is a first-aid kit on site and the lodge has links with flying doctors.

Dangerous animals: Moderate Risk

Security measures: You’re escorted to and from your room in the evenings.

Fire safety: There are fire buckets in the rooms.

Extras

Disabled access: Not Possible

Laundry facilities: Laundry is included. It is hand washed, line dried and coal ironed and usually returned to you within 24 hours. However, like most camps in Tanzania, women’s underwear is not accepted.

Money: Each banda has a trunk which can be locked.

Accepted payment on location: Cash is recommended to settle any extras and they will accept US$, GB£, Euros and Tanzanian shillings.

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